JPF TALK – Featuring Aide Iskandar
Helped Singapore win its first ever ASEAN title in 1998, subsequently led Singapore to two more ASEAN titles in 2004 & 2007, won Singapore’s fourth as a coaching staff in 2012, a total 121 caps for
Helped Singapore win its first ever ASEAN title in 1998, subsequently led Singapore to two more ASEAN titles in 2004 & 2007, won Singapore’s fourth as a coaching staff in 2012, a total 121 caps for Singapore National Team, the former Singapore Captain and current Courts Young Lions’ head coach Aide Iskandar shares his footballing days as well as his current coaching role with Junpiter Futbol…
JPF: You are one of those very few Singapore players who actually tasted the 90s Malaysia Cup, S-League, rebirth of Malaysia Cup with Lions XII and 4 times ASEAN titles, which period was the most memorable to you?
AI: I have been very lucky to witness the football development here in Singapore over the years, especially to have played alongside with Fandi, Abbas, TongHai and Kadir in the 1994 M-League and Malaysia Cup. It was a dream come true for me then. But as far as most memorable period is concerned, it has to be the years which I have captained Singapore National Team. Since young, I have always wanted to play for Singapore but to be given Singapore’s captaincy and to lead the team to ASEAN titles, it was an absolute honour.
JPF: According to report, you actually announced your retirement from international football hours prior to a World Cup 2010 qualifier game against Tajikistan, why the sudden decision?
AI: Well, it’s true that the official announcement of my retirement from international football was made by the FA hours before the game but as a matter of fact, my decision was made known to the FA a week before. I was in the final phrase of completing my Degree in Sports Management and also during the same period of time, my wife was due to give birth to my third child. Although my retirement decision was officially accepted by FAS a week before that game, other than coach Raddy and team manager Eugene, nobody knew about it as we were preparing intensively for the World Cup qualifying game. So rightfully, it was not a sudden decision as reported.
JPF: You have worked with coach Raddy for awhile, tell us something about him which nobody knows.
AI: Coach Raddy’s brain is always operating 24hrs. He never stopped thinking and talking about football. Sometimes, you will get so impressed with the idea that he had and it’s always some ideas which you have never encounter before. Young coaches like me benefits a lot from working with him.
JPF: Which was your most unforgettable game for Singapore? Why?
AI: All the cup finals which I played in have always been special and unforgettable. Games against Thailand with the likes of Kiatisuk Senamung & Surachai Jaturapattarapong were especially memorable. These Thai legendary players could challenge you to the maximum which until today I still have great respect for them. Other than that, the game against Uruguay where I played against Diego Forlan; against Japan with Naohiro Takahara, Shinji Ono & Hidetoshi Nakata in the squad and also some other big and unique games against Manchester United, Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur, and at the old National Stadium with full capacity are considered unforgettable games for me.
JPF: Who is your best centre back partner during your career?
AI: Haha.. it is very obvious – S.Subramani from Home United! We have been partnering each other, both at the club and international level for years. We have that telepathy understanding between us and sometimes we would be surprised that we actually understood each other so well in the game. I would know exactly where he would be moving in the game and vice versa. Both of us are like close family members.
JPF: Was your transfer to play for Johor FA in 2005 a move for new challenges or other reasons?
AI: It was a move for new challenges for sure. Many players from my generation were retiring soon like Egmar Goncalves and even S.Subramani so when the offer came, I was tempted. Johor wanted to sign me as a captain and build up a young team. That year was also my tenth year with Home United where I had won two S-League titles and five Singapore Cups, I discussed with my family and I decided to jump at the opportunity for a brand new challenge overseas.
JPF: You led Hougang United to their best table standing in 2011, tell us more about your first 2 seasons as a S-League head coach.
AI: That year was a special year for me, the team and the fans. I thought we played above expectation that season. In fact, right from the start, I had faith in the team and I knew we would do well. I took in fringe players from the other clubs, gave them the opportunity to play at the highest level. The fact that the players wanted to prove the critics wrong was remarkable! They worked hard as a team and beat all the big teams along the way to finish the best standing ever in the club’s history. I was extremely proud of the team!
Photo: Hougang United FC Supporters’ Club FB
JPF: Talk about Hougang United, you cannot miss out Hougang HOOLs. Do you agree that Hougang HOOLs played a vital part in Hougang United’s football or probably Singapore football?
AI: Yes, definitely! This group has brought in a new way of supporting the local football for our domestic league. The passionate singing and the displaying of support from them is something which we have not seen in our league before. This fantastic group has motivated our players throughout the season and that was definitely one of the reasons why the team played well. I personally feel that other clubs should emulate what the Hougang HOOLs are doing.
JPF: How different was the feeling of winning the ASEAN title with Singapore in 1998 (Tiger Cup), 2004 & 2007 (AFF Suzuki Cup) as a player and won the AFF Suzuki Cup again for a historic fourth time in 2012 as a coaching staff?
AI: You know, the team which I used to captain previously made up 60% (players) of the current team which won the AFF Suzuki Cup 2012. Although I am part of the coaching staff now, it is still an amazing feeling to win the title with the players again. To echo what President Tony Tan has mentioned; the lifting of AFF Suzuki Cup brought enormous joy and satisfaction to the nation! It is exactly what Singapore needed to move forward. And of course, hopefully one day I can win the title again but in the capacity of a head coach.
JPF: In your opinion, what are the changes or preparations required for the current Singapore NT in order to move up another level after this AFF Suzuki Cup triumph?
AI: There should be a continuity in the current national setup. Unfortunately, coach Raddy will not be around but the team has to ride on the momentum especially in the first game which is the 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualifier against Jordan.
JPF: There are some people who are still not convinced with the AFF Suzuki Cup win in 2012 citing that Singapore did not play well, especially an all-out defend strategy for the second leg final against Thailand, what do you have to say?
AI: I know some people said that Thailand was unlucky not to score a goal and Singapore was lucky to win the Cup, but I think we won by merit. Thailand is known to be a strong team in the region and that’s a fact. If we are in their shoes, down with 2 goals from the first leg, we would also attack right from the start. Vice versa, they could be more defensive than usual if they were leading by 2 goals in a second leg final. However, I still think that Singapore played a compact game and did extremely well to score some crucial goals in the first leg at home against the Thai which eventually won us the Cup. Not to forget, Mustafic Fahrudin, Isa Halim and Shaiful Esah were all playing with injuries.
JPF: How was the mood in the Changing Room in the Final (first leg) in Singapore compared to the Final (second leg) in Bangkok?
AI: The mood was the same for both first and second leg to be honest – players were all very focused. The guys still believed that they could still win the game. I clearly remembered even when Singapore was down with a goal when we went into the half time break in the second leg, players like Baihakki and Shahril stood up and told the guys to stay focus, calm their nerves and not to respect the Thais too much and etc. Eventually, Singapore put on a slightly better performance in the second half to frustrate the Thais and eventually the Thais ran out of steam.
JPF: Do you feel that Lions XII’s players in the Singapore winning squad contributed to the historic victory significantly?
AI: Yes, definitely. Players from the Lions XII have been playing together for one whole season, their combination play and understanding among each other certainly contributed to the Singapore’s victory. Of course, not to forget about our S-League. Teams like Harimau Muda and DPMN gave real competitive matches to the rest of the teams, players benefited from playing such games week in week out, and improved.
Coaching & Advices
JPF: As Manchester United Soccer School’s head coach in Singapore, what do you want to achieve with or at the School?
AI: I have been the Manchester United Soccer School (MUSS) ambassador for Southeast Asia for the past three and a half years. My role in the school is to promote and provide exposure and training for the youth in the Manchester United way. We want to impart the experience and teaching from the club in United Kingdom all the way down to the young players. I always believe in youth football development and I want to share my experience with all the young players. I want all the young players to benefit from such training and expose them to an even higher level of football.
JPF: With your previous involvements in Nike The Chance and NexLions Cup, do you think that Singapore youth football development is moving in the right direction?
AI: We are moving in the right direction for sure but of course there are a lot of things which can be improved. We need to build a solid foundation where the young players could have more competitive matches. Tournaments such as Canon Lion City Cup and NexLions Cup are good exposures for the young players and we need more of that.
JPF: You were just a 19yrs old when you won the M-League & Malaysia Cup double with Singapore together with the likes of Fandi Ahmad, Abbas Saad & Malek Awab, what kind of advice would you give to those youngsters trying to cope with the pressure to perform in a team full of senior players?
AI: I clearly remembered it took me nearly 3 months to settle down in the senior team! However, one thing I learnt is that you have to overcome the age barrier stigma. It doesn’t mean that if you are young, you can’t do it. Like I have always tell my boys, if Maradona and Fandi can perform and excel at a very young age, you can do it too. You just need to have the self belief.
JPF: As an centre back, what are the things you look out for in a game in order to stop theopponent from scoring?
AI: If I can, I try to do research on the players whom I’m going to take on in the next game. If such resource are not available, I will then try to identify the “dangerman” on the pitch as early as possible. And also, I believe communication is key. I’m a very vocal centreback and I would make sure I give clear instructions to my midfielders especially if the opponent is peeling off from them in their attacking third half. That communication could prove vital and essential so that I can focus on my job at the back.
JPF: What can a player do to impress you to sign him?
AI: Football intelligence. Other than the usual fitness, strength and technique, a midfielder or striker must know when to hold the ball, when to release the ball and how to get away from the defender. A great example will be Sharil Ishak. Well, for defender, he must know how to read the game. He must know how to win the ball using the least energy! Particularly, I like a centreback who seldom get his body down on the ground just to win the ball. Great examples are former AC Milan and Italian International, Franco Baresi and former Malaysia’s Soh Chin Aun. These players would wait for the right moment, go in and take the ball away from you without you knowing it! And these are the attributes which I am always looking out for.